A Prayer for Peace

by Thomas Ország-Land (February 2012)



Alone, behind a splendid table, trembling,

man holds a gun against his aging head

observing, quite detached although with dread,

his seeds of self-spite silently assembling.

Concerned more with our deadlines than the deed,

advisors, aides and correspondents mingle

at deathwatch cocktail parties in our single

pursuit to bring you something fresh to read.

And if my paper has one more edition,

I shall describe the gun, its ammunition

and calibre, and how things had begun

until, dear reader, by default you're able

to fail to recognize behind the table

yourself – the one who could unload the gun.




      (For Frank Barnaby)


How distant: like vultures. The multiplying patrol

of military satellites encircles

the green and throbbing earth in patient precision.

And all has been said. And nothing has been resolved.

Our leaders are lost. The poets stare in silence.

The conference halls are filled with warnings defining

in glaring blindness the final peril of war.

The libraries are the mass graves of our finest words

prescribing cautious strategies for survival.

Our mindless means have soared beyond our purpose.

The priests have lowered their gaze. They watch the countdown.

The missiles are primed and humming: aimed at ourselves.

Is this the conclusion, the end of all the millennia,

the logical ending never intended? My love,

come hold my hand, let's call the children together

and lay the table, my love, and crown the hour

because the earth is giving birth to the future.

This is the end of the era of blood-drenched towers.

Humanity (you and I and the neighbours) must choose

how to use our marvellous powers and either die

by our science or fulfil the ancient ideal

and deploy our plans to tame and enrich this planet.

And the choice is there in the simple logic of children,

the warmth of your hand and even in these very lines.




Only a girl ran across the meadow before the disaster.


Vibrant, the grass sprang back celebrating her healthy feet,

clouds of insects whirled in her wake in a torrent of teeming

golden air, and salty moisture cooled the barefooted

girl, her head full of babies, running across the scented

meadow by highways whispering tension and stretching to restless

cities beneath a satellite's mindless, hovering sensors

           that registered her movements,

           still registered her movements...

Barefooted daydream, girl and grass and insects, and teeming

cities full of babies all withered in the sudden heat.





If the shadow of towering missile systems should fall

across your face, do not wilt in dejection.

For even the tallest of towers cannot grow taller

than human projection.




When hatred rules the nations,

I choose without regret

to be a refugee

among the patriots.


THOMAS ORSZÁG-LAND is a poet and award-winning foreign correspondent who writes from London and his native Budapest.

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